She may not have won, as she did on back-to-back weekends earlier this month at the national and regional events in Las Vegas, but Annie Whiteley didn’t leave Houston’s Royal Purple Raceway empty-handed. Driving the J&A Service/YNot Racing Top Alcohol Funny Car, she set low e.t. of the meet in eliminations with a 5.53 and top speed of the meet during qualifying with a 266.85-mph blast, the fastest run of her four-year career.

Currently fourth in NHRA national points, just a round out of second place despite running fewer races than the drivers ahead of her in the standings, Whiteley grew increasingly quicker throughout qualifying with an opening 5.614 at 264.29 mph followed by a 5.595/264.03 and a 5.581/266.85. “Up until the second round, the car was running great,” said Whiteley, who ran at least 2 mph faster on all three qualifying passes than she’d ever gone before this race.

After dispatching former U.S. Nationals winner Chris Foster in the quickest side-by-side race of the opening round, 5.53 to 5.59, Whiteley dropped a weird second-round match with Sweden’s Ulf Leanders, the eventual runner-up. “The car shook the tires about 200 feet off the starting line and at first we couldn’t figure out why,” said Whiteley, who was runner-up at Houston last year. “The computer graph was odd. It shouldn’t have done anything different on that run because the way the car was running, we hadn’t really made any changes.”

A post-race analysis of video from that run revealed the culprit: liquid spraying up from one of the rear tires. “It looked like I was pushing puddles, like there was water on the track or something,” Whiteley said. “We refired the car in the pits, and it was making a puddle under one of the headers because the inner tube was cracked.”

The Spring Nationals, Whiteley’s third race in three weeks, will be her last for nearly two months, and she heads for the sidelines having won 80 percent of her rounds so far this year, tops in Top Alcohol Funny Car. Next up: the Central Regional at Bandimere Speedway just outside Denver, the YNot team’s home track, June 19-21.